Chinese Internet Language
A Study of Identity Constructions
Defense Language Institute Over the past decade, the rapid development of Internet communication in mainland China has resulted in a new variety of Chinese, which is generally termed the Chinese Internet language (Henceforth CIL). The majority of Internet consumers in China are aged between eighteen and twenty-four, who are studying in two- or four-year colleges. This dissertation examines identity construction in the use of CIL by young Chinese netizens. It argues that the employment of CIL is not only attributable to such external factors as constraints from computers as a medium of communication but also, perhaps equally importantly, to such internal factors as netizens’ desire to construct various personal identities.
To make the argument, this dissertation first analyzes objective linguistic data, CIL usages on the lexical, sentential, and discursive level that were collected primarily from five Internet situations – BBS’s, chatrooms, Internet literature, personal e-mails, and public web sites. It then examines the subjective data collected through a questionnaire survey conducted in mainland China. The survey results strongly support the argument that CIL is oftentimes utilized for the purpose of identity construction. The types of identities that the survey participants would like to construct include those characterized with being 1) entertaining and interesting, 2) technologically well informed and being able to keep up with social developments, 3) modern, fashionable and cool, 4) internationally oriented or transnational, 5) unconventional and even rebellious, and/or 6) young, fresh and innocent.
This study contributes to the understanding of the interaction between language use and identity construction in the Internet arena. Aside from documenting a new type of language contact and convergence in the digital age, this dissertation also informs research on the social and technological factors responsible for language variation and change. Moreover, this dissertation study sheds light on such topics as language and culture, functions of language, and language attitudes.
ISBN 978 3 89586 382 0. LINCOM Studies in Chinese Linguistics 02. 187pp. 2006.